Metro Vancouver air quality worse than Beijing: St. Paul’s respirologist

A smoky Vancouver sunset on Wednesday, August 2. Simon Little / CKNW

The head of respiratory medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital is raising red flags about the air quality in some parts of Metro Vancouver being worse than Beijing.

“So right now Beijing air is better in terms of quality than Vancouver air,” said Dr. Don Sin.

READ MORE: 911 calls for breathing issues jump as smoky haze chokes Vancouver’s air quality

“That’s very rare. Most of the time we beat Beijing hands down. But over the next few days I’m afraid the quality of air in Beijing will be better.”

According to a real-time air pollution data collected by the World Air Quality Index project, the air quality index in Burnaby was at an ‘unhealthy’ level on Friday, while Beijing was at a ‘moderate’ one.

Air quality readings at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4 for Burnaby and Beijing. World Air Quality Index

Sin warns if similar wildfires become an annual theme, with long periods of poor air quality, it could become a significant health risk.

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“It is very worrisome that we’re experiencing this, this particular summer,” he said.

“We experienced something similar a couple summers ago. So it’s not that infrequent now, and global warming obviously is contributing to this. People in British Columbia should not be alarmed necessarily, but should be vigilant.”

READ MORE: B.C. wildfire status Thursday: Poor air quality remains as heat records broken

Sin echoed Lower Mainland health authorities in warning people with respiratory and heart problems to stay indoors and avoid exertion.

He added that the elderly and the young are particularly susceptible.

He said there shouldn’t be any long-term health concerns if the smoke only lasts a week or two.

But he pointed to Chinese studies that have shown long-term exposure can be dangerous, with poor air quality being a known carcinogen.

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